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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

President Donald Trump announced via Twitter on Wednesday morning that transgender people are banned from serving in the U.S. military.

According to a 2016 study by the Rand Corporation commissioned by the Department of Defense, there are about 11,000 transgender people in active duty and the reserves. Despite Trump’s claim that transgender people are a “burden” to the military, the Rand study found that allowing transgender people to serve openly “would have a minimal impact on readiness and health care costs.”

The study estimated about 30 to 140 hormone treatments per year in the military along with an estimated 25 to 130 gender transition-related surgeries for those in active service. The cost of these medical procedures, the study found, could range from $2.4 million to $8.4 million, which the study said would be “an exceedingly small proportion of total healthcare expenditures.”

Trump’s announcement has drawn criticism from a number of LGBT-rights and civil rights organizations, including the ACLU. A number of politicians have also come out against Trump’s ban. California Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu said in a statement that Trump’s exclusion of transgender people in the military is “based on naked bigotry,” not facts.

“I know because I served on active duty,” Lieu said. “The military doesn’t care what your sexual orientation or identity is, or who you love. It cares about whether you can shoot straight and complete the mission. The president’s discriminatory decision harms our military readiness for our volunteer-based military. Thousands of transgender Americans are already in the military. Why? Because they are qualified, patriotic and willing to die for their country. There is zero evidence a transgender sniper would be any less qualified than a gay sniper or a straight sniper. Today is a sad day for America.”

Trump’s announcement reverses a policy introduced during the Obama administration and approved by the Defense Department that would allow transgender people to openly serve in the military. Implementation of the policy, which was still under final review, was delayed by Secretary of Defense James Mattis last month. The delay, requested by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would last six months with a review due by December showcasing how allowing transgender people to serve in the military “would affect the military’s lethality,” according to the Washington Post.

Mattis said in a memo about the decision that the six-month delay “in no way presupposes an outcome,” but that more time was needed to finalize a decision.

“Since becoming the Secretary of Defense, I have emphasized that the Department of Defense must measure each policy decision against one critical standard: will the decision affect the readiness and lethality of the force?” Mattis stated in the memo. “Put another way, how will the decision affect the ability of America’s military to defend the nation? It is against this standard that I provide the following guidance on the way forward in accessing transgender individuals into the military services.”

Trump’s announcement marks another blow against the transgender community. In February, the Trump administration reversed another Obama-era guideline instructing public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. Upon revoking the directive, Trump invoked states’ rights and said public schools should be able to establish their own decisions regarding the issue.

Celisa Calacal is a junior writing fellow for AlterNet. She is a senior journalism major and legal studies minor at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. Previously she worked at ThinkProgress and served as an editor for Ithaca College’s student newspaper. Follow her at @celisa_mia.

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.